Candidate for governor accused of sexual harassment by former employee in lawsuit

Candidate for governor accused of sexual harassment by former employee in lawsuit
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 7:18 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor and current candidate for governor Charlie Pierce is being sued by a woman who Pierce previously employed.

Pamela Wastell — who previously worked as an assistant to Pierce — filed the suit in state court Friday. The lawsuit is an employment discrimination case against Pierce and the borough that includes acts of sexual harassment among other claims, naming Charlie Pierce and the KPB as the defendants. Pierce faces charges that include assault and battery, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and more.

The 20-page document includes graphic details of the accused behavior of Pierce, stating “from January through June of 2022, pierce subjected Wastell to increasingly frequent incidents of sexual harassment: including sexual remarks, embraces, kisses, touching her breast, false imprisonment in his private office, massages, discussion of his sex life and more.”

The suit alleges that “At all times relevant, KPB implemented no procedures with which employees could report discrimination, sexual harassment, or retaliation without reprisal.”

Wastell worked as Pierce’s assistant from 2013 to 2022. The alleged harassment began in early 2021.

Wastell says that on July 7 of this year, an incident occurred with Pierce that forced her to report his behavior to the borough a few days later, on July 11. Wastell was then placed on paid leave at that time.

As a result of her claim, the borough hired Anchorage law firm Ashburn and Mason to follow up on the filed claim, which they later found to be credible. Pierce resigned as Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor on Aug. 26, and Wastell has been on leave since the incident occurred.

Charging documents show that on Oct. 6, the borough notified her to return to work. On Oct 19, the borough directed Wastell to either return to work or have her employment severed, prompting her to file the lawsuit on Oct 21. When reached for comment, Pierce’s attorney Richard Moses declined to discuss the matter.

Wastell’s lawsuit seeks a monetary award for lost wages — both past and future — and benefits, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.